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beflowered tie, either would have gone perfectly around the neck of a
Polish immigrant in New York on his wedding day. I suggested that I be
shown some other styles. The saleswoman gazed at me stonily.

"A bus leaves the corner below here for St. Raphaël every hour. You are
there in twenty minutes. Or you can go by train in six minutes."

Up went the boxes to their shelf. There was nothing for me to do but get
out.

One says Place du Dôme or Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, depending upon
whether sympathies are ultramontane or anti-clerical. For cathedral and
city hall touch each other at right angles. LIBERTÉ-ÉGALITÉ-FRATERNITÉ
is the legend in large letters on the cathedral wall: the one notice
posted on the Hôtel de Ville is a warning of the last day to pay taxes.
Two beggars stand guard at the cathedral portal: Senegalese with fixed
bayonets flank the archway leading to the municipal courtyard. The Hôtel
de Ville is a modern building, typical of French official taste of the
present day: the cathedral is an edifice of several epochs, with a brick
facade reminiscent of Bologna. The episcopal palace, adjacent to the
cathedral, is part of the same structure. But it is used for government
offices, and the entrance to its upper floor is by a staircase from the
vestibule of the cathedral. The _Service de Santé Municipale_ occupies
the rooms along the portico that faces the cloister. The cure of souls
has been banished to a private house across the street.

The cathedral quarter is wholly Louis XVI and First Empire. If I had
begun my ramble there, I should have found much to admire. But I had
been spoiled by the Louis XIII quarter nearer the sea. Travel
impressions are largely dependent upon itinerary. I am often able to
surprise a compatriot whose knowledge of Europe is limited to one
"bang-up trip, and there wasn't much we missed, y'know," by being able to
tell him the order in which he visited places. It is an easy thing to
do. You simply have to notice how the tourist compares cities and other
"sights." He is blissfully ignorant of the fact that his positive
judgments, his unhesitating preferences are accidental. They do not
express at all his real tastes and his real appreciation of values.
However cultivated and intelligent an observer he may be, unless he has
carefully weighed and made proper allowance for the influence of
itinerary, his judgments and preferences are not to be taken seriously.
For years I honestly believed that the Rue de la Porte Rosette was one of
the finest streets in the world. I told my friends of it. But when
Alexandria was revisited, the Rue de la Porte Rosette was a shabby
thoroughfare. After a year in the interior of Asia Minor, the Rue de la
Porte Rosette was the first street through which I drove in coming back
to European civilization. The next time I saw it I was fresh from years
of constant residence in Paris. In my memory, Sofia is a gem of an
up-to-date city, while Bucharest is a poor imitation of the occidental
municipality. The chances are more than even that my comparative
estimate of the two Balkan capitals is wholly wrong. For each time I
have visited Sofia, it was in coming from Turkey, while stops at
Bucharest have followed immediately after Buda-Pest and Odessa.

I wandered through the cathedral quarter with less enthusiasm than was
its due, and soon decided to rejoin the Artist. He was not in the
neighborhood of any of the Roman ruins. He was not sitting behind an
_apéritif_ on a café terrace. He was not watching soldiers play football
in the courtyard of the barracks. He was not sketching the Norman tower.
He was not exploring alleys of the medieval quarter. He was not looking
at hydroplanes over the fence of the aerodrome. My quest had led me
unconsciously back to the beach. There was still an hour before our
rendezvous. But where we had stretched in the sand after lunch was a
delightful spot, and I had remembered to have my pouch filled at a tabac.
I was not going to feel bored waiting for him. Where the laborers were
working on the pier, the black soldier guards called out to me to beware
of danger. Not being skilled in dodging construction machinery I gave it
a wide berth. The place of our siesta had to be reached by going through
ruins and climbing over a dune. The Artist was there.

"You know," he explained, ignoring with the sweep of his hand the Roman
mole where a new bevy of mermaids had appeared, "the progress of aviation
has fascinated me ever since that July day at Rheims when Wright went up
and stayed up. Just look what those fellows are doing!"

Hydroplanes were appearing from the aerodrome. When they struck the
water there was a hiss, which grew in volume and acuity as they skimmed
the waves. After a few hundred yards, the machines rose as easily as
from land, circled up to the clouds and into them. Coming down, the
aviators practiced dipping and swerving by following and avoiding the
purposely irregular course of motor-boats. An officer, who spoke to us
to find out, I suppose, who we were and why we were there, remarked that
the aviators were beginners. We were astonished. If this was learning
to fly, what was flying?

"Our boys need little teaching to learn to fly," he explained. "That
comes naturally. What they are learning is how to use their machines for
fighting. Science and training and practice come in there. A world-old
game is before you. It is only the medium that is new."

Words of wisdom. A bit of aqueduct led us to Fréjus in the hope of
tasting the charm of a more ancient past than we had found in other
Riviera cities. We were not disappointed. The charm was there. But we
would not have found it, had we tried to dissociate it from the present,
had we ignored or deplored its setting. Nothing that lives assimilates
what is foreign to its nature: nothing that lives survives dissection.
We took Fréjus as Fréjus was, and not as we wanted it to be or thought it
must be. We took the aerodrome with the hippodrome, the coal merchant
with the Norman tower, the parrot with the gargoyle, the Hôtel de Ville
with the cathedral, and the mermaids with the mole.




CHAPTER XIV

SAINT-RAPHAEL

On the terrace of our little home at Théoule, a lover of the Riviera
read what I had written about Fréjus.

"If you have any idea of making a book out of your Riviera articles,"
she said positively, "do not think you can dismiss the Estérel and
Saint-Raphaël in so cavalier a fashion. That may be all right for
Lester Hornby and you and serve as a good introduction to a story on
Fréjus, but in your project of a book on Riviera towns - "

There is no need to say more. I looked over to the hills of the
Estérel and felt sorry I had neglected them. I thought of past
experiences, and agreed that there was something more to write about
the French end of the Riviera. And then we put our heads together over
a time table, planned to go to Agay by train, and walk on the rest of
the way to Saint-Raphaël. If the weather was good, we should climb
Mont Vinaigre, and see the Estérel from its highest point.

"I don't care whether it affords good subjects for Lester or not,"
declared my boss. "I've done the trip, and I know it will be fun - and
remember what Horatio was told!"

Humankind and human habitation had occupied the Artist and myself on
almost every day afield from, Théoule. Of course we had taken in the
scenery, sketched it and spoken about it, but only as a background or
accompaniment. From Cannes to Menton it is the human side of the
Riviera that gets you. Nature is a sort of musical accompaniment to
the song of human activity. Between Cannes and the Italian frontier,
where the railway does not skirt the coast, you have the tramway. It
is with you always, night and day, and makes itself heard at every
curve. (The road is all curves!) As a result of the tramway, or
perhaps as its cause, the Cannes-Menton stretch of the Riviera is
solidly built up. Where the towns do not run into each other, an
unbroken line of villas links them up. It is all the city - you cannot
get away from that.

The road we follow to Fréjus was opened in 1903, a gift to the nation
from the initiative and enterprise of the Touring-Club de France. The
building of a tram line was fortunately forbidden. But with the
railway and rapidly-developing use of the automobile, the little
villages of the Estérel coast are being rapidly built up. Around the
cape from Théoule, Le Trayas will soon rival Saint-Raphaël as a center
for Estérel excursions. Then we have Anthéor, Agay, and Boulouris
before reaching the long and charming villa-covered approach to
Saint-Raphaël.

But we do not need to worry yet about what is going to happen. The
blessed fact remains that the Estérel, between Théoule and
Saint-Raphaël, is not yet closely populated like the rest of the
Riviera. The tramway has not come. The railway frequently goes out of
sight, if not out of hearing, for a mile or two. You have nature all
by herself, with no houses, no human beings, no human inventions. The
interior of the Estérel is as refreshingly different from the
hinterland of the rest of the Riviera as most of the coast. There are
no cities and towns back on the hills, no railways and tramways, no
fine motor roads to make the pedestrian's progress a disagreeable and
almost continuous passage through clouds of dust. The Estérel is hills
and valleys, streams and forests and birds. You do not even have poles
and wires to remind you of the world you have left for the moment.

The only way one comes to know this country is to have a villa on its
fringe, as we did, and get lost in it every time you try to explore it.
But such good fortune does not fall to everyone - nor the time - so it is
comforting to point out that much of interest in the Estérel can be
visited by motorists from the Corniche. Between La Napoule and Agay,
the Touring-Club de France has put sign-posts at every little path
leading from the Corniche back into the interior. Some paths, also,
where the road mounts on Cap Roux, lead down to grottoes on the water's
edge or out to cliffs. Each sign gives the attraction and the
distance. In our walks from Théoule we explored most of these, but
discovered that one must not have an objective for lunch. For there is
no connection between the number of kilometers and the time you must
take. A map and compass are wise precautions. Some paths are scarcely
marked at all, and when you have to slide down the side of a volcanic
hill into a ravine and try to guess where you are supposed to go next,
a woodsman's instinct is needed. The excursions are surer because more
frequented, but none the less charming, after you have rounded the cape
and crossed the little River Agay.

Agay, the Agathon of Ptolemy, boasts of the only harbor on the Estérel.
On one side is the Pointe d'Anthéor and on the other Cap Dramont.
Right behind the harbor rises the Rastel d'Agay, a jagged mass of
copper rock a thousand feet high, climbing which is an excellent
preparation for and indication of what one may expect in Estérel
exploration. The way is not made easy for you as it is in the eastern
end of the Riviera. But unless you strike an exceptionally warm day
you have the will for pushing on afoot that is completely lacking at
Monte Carlo and Menton.

The most ambitious and most interesting excursion into the Estérel that
can be made in a day's walk is to go to Saint-Raphaël from Agay by way
of Mont Vinaigre. You must make an early start and be ready to put in
from five to six hours if you want to eat your lunch on the highest
peak of the Estérel. It took us from seven o'clock to noon, and we
kept going steadily. Crossing the railway, we struck out to the right
of the Agay through forests of pine and cork to Le Gratadis, then along
the Ravin du Pertus, pushing through the underbrush in blossom and
skirting the many walls of rock that served to indicate where the path
was not. It would have been easier to have made the round trip from
Saint-Raphaël. But we should not have the full realization of the wild
beauty of the Estérel nor that joyful feeling of reaching _astra per
aspera_. The way down to Saint-Raphaël, after descending to Le Malpey,
less than an hour from the summit, is by a carriage road.

We wished we could have seen the stars from Mont Vinaigre. There was a
belvedere, and if we had only brought our blankets! But however warm
the day, the nights are cool, especially two thousand feet up. Only
those who have slept out at night in Mediterranean countries know how
cold it can get. The top of Mont Vinaigre, almost in the center of the
Estérel, affords a view of the ensemble of volcanic hills crowded
together by themselves that makes you realize why it is so easy to get
lost in the valleys between them. The forests are thick and the
ravines go every which way. Inland the Estérel is separated from the
foothills of the Maritime Alps by the valleys of the Riou Blanc and
Siagne through which runs the main road to Grasse, with a branch down
the Siagne to Mandelieu. On the northern slope of the mountain is the
road from Fréjus to Cannes, which leaves the Estérel at Mandelieu. It
is one of the oldest roads in France. Several Roman milestones have
recently been unearthed here. In these hills the Romans found coal and
copper, and from the quarries along the coast at Boulouris and on Cap
Dramont the quarries of blue porphyry are still worked.

In mining possibilities the whole region is as rich as it was twenty
centuries ago; but, as in many other parts of France, little has been
done to take advantage of them. Some years ago an American friend of
mine, motoring with his wife from Fréjus to Cannes, discovered coal
fields, formed a company, and is now drawing a revenue from hills whose
former owners knew them only as preserves for shooting wild boar and
other wild game. Within her own boundaries France has coal enough for
all her needs if only she would mine it. But the French love to put
their money into safe bonds of their own and foreign governments. The
woolen stocking does not give up its hoarded coins for such enterprises
as mines and domestic industries. Daughter's _dot_ must be in a form
acceptable to the prospective bridegroom's family. And then the French
do not breed the new generation sufficiently large to furnish laborers
for developing the natural resources of the country. They are hostile
to immigration. When the war came Asia and Africa were called upon to
man munition plants.

After the lesson of the war the French have tried to make their own
country give up more of its wealth. However, though they are now more
skeptical than ever of investing abroad, they still pursue an
aggressive foreign policy to open up and protect fields of capital far
from home. On the edge of the Estérel, a dozen miles away, at Fréjus,
Saint-Raphaël and Cannes, the people have lost much money in Russian
and Turkish bonds, Brazilian railways and coffee plantations. Their
sons go to Algeria and Morocco to seek a fortune. Is this why only the
coming of tourists and residents from a less hospitable clime has
wrought any change in the country during the nineteenth century? From
the standpoint of natural production the Riviera is relatively less
important, less self-supporting than before the railway came.

By the forester's house of Le Malpey, after an hour's descent, we
strike the carriage road. An hour and a half brings us to Valescure,
an English colony built in pine woods. Another half hour and we are at
Saint-Raphaël.

The next morning we discovered that Saint-Raphaël had its Old Town,
which escaped us on our trip to Fréjus. Only the new name of the main
street - Rue Gambetta - indicated that we were in France of the Third
Republic. But, as in Grasse, we felt that we were really in France of
all the centuries. There was none of that unmistakably Italian
atmosphere that still makes itself felt in Nice, once you wander into
quarters east of the Place Masséna. The thick walls of the old
church - far too massive for its size - bear witness to the period when
Mediterranean coast town church was sanctuary more than in name. To
the church the people fled when the Saracen pirates came, and while the
priests prayed they acted on the adage that God helps those who help
themselves, pouring molten lead from the roof and shooting arbalests
through _meurtrières_ that can still be distinguished despite bricks
and plaster. This is the Saint-Raphaël that Napoleon knew when he
returned from Egypt and, fifteen years later, sailed for his first
exile at Elba.

But we found much that was attractive in the new Saint-Raphaël, which
is as French as the old. The English keep themselves mostly at
Valescure. Tourists come on _chars-à-bancs_ for lunch, and hurry back
to Nice. Saint-Raphaël has developed as a French watering place. It
does not have the protection of the high wall of the Maritime Alps.
When the mistral, bane of the Midi, is not blowing, however, you wonder
whether the native-born have not picked out for a seashore resort a
more delightful bit of the Riviera coast than foreigners. A Frenchman
once told me that Saint-Raphaël was the logical Riviera town for the
French simply because the night train from Paris landed a traveler
there in time for noon lunch.

"This fact alone," he declared to me, "would induce me to choose
Saint-Raphaël in preference to Cannes and Nice. You know that when
twelve o'clock has struck the day is ruined for a Frenchman if he is
not reasonably sure of being able to sit down pretty soon to a good hot
meal. The P.-L.-M. put Cannes and Nice just a little bit beyond our
limit."

As you emerge from the Old Town, at the harbor, you pass by a large
modern church in Byzantine style, whose portal shows to excellent
advantage six porphyry columns from the nearby Boulouris quarries.
Along the sea is the Boulevard Felix-Martin, which runs into the
Corniche de l'Estérel. For several miles you feel that there is
nothing to detract from the spell of the sea. Elsewhere on the Riviera
you have promenades embellished by great buildings and monuments and
forts and exotic trees. You have coves and capes and villa-clad hills
with the Alpine background. You climb cliffs and see the Mediterranean
at bends, through trees and across luxurious gardens. Panorama after
panorama with distractions galore react on you like a picture gallery.
But at Saint-Raphaël the sea dominates. The Mediterranean alone holds
you.

This is why you cannot endorse the bald statement flung at you by the
famous sundial of the Rue de France at Nice:

"Io vado e vengo ogni giorno,
Ma tu andrai senza ritorno."


It may be true enough of Nice that you will not go back. One has the
confusion of human activities everywhere and tires of it everywhere.
But just the sea alone is always new. Of course in the end the
immortal sun has the better of you. But as long as life does last the
effort will be made to get back to the Boulevard Felix-Martin at
Saint-Raphaël. For there, better than anywhere else on the Riviera,
one can look at the sea.




CHAPTER XV

THÉOULE

From Cannes to Menton the Riviera is cursed with electric tram lines.
We were led beyond Cannes to the Corniche de l'Estérel by the absence
of a tram line. We could not get away from the railway, however,
without abandoning the coast. Is there any place desirable for living
purposes in which the railway does not obtrude? When choosing a
country residence, men with families, unless they have several motors
and several chauffeurs, must stick close to the railway. Monsieur
l'Adjoint was showing us the salon of his villa when a whistle
announced the Vintimille express. He hastened to anticipate the train
by reassuring us that there was a deep cut back of the villa and that
the road-bed veered away from us just at the corner of the garden. It
was in the neighboring villa that trains were really heard. We were to
believe him - at that moment chandeliers and windows and two vases of
dried grasses on the mantelpiece danced a passing greeting to the
train. Monsieur l'Adjoint thought that he had failed to carry the day.
But we live on a Paris boulevard, and know that noises are comparative.
Vintimille expresses were not going to pass all the time.

We were glad that the railway had not deterred us. It was good to be
right above the water. Some people do not like the glare of sun
reflected from the sea. But they are late risers. Parents of small
children are accustomed to waking with the sun. On the first morning
in the Villa Étoile the baby chuckled early. Sun spots were dancing on
the ceiling, and she was watching them. The breakfast on the terrace
was no hurried swallowing of a cup of coffee with eyes fixed upon a
newspaper propped against a sugar bowl. The agreement of the day
before had been tripartite. The proprietor was easily satisfied with
bank notes. But the wife had not consented to leave the freedom of the
hotel until it had been solemnly agreed that newspapers were to be
refused entrance into the Villa Étoile, and that watches were not to be
drawn out (even furtively) from waistcoat pockets.

Unless agreements are fortified by favorable circumstances and
constantly recurring interest, they are seldom lived up to. When
promises are difficult to keep, where are the men of their word? Doing
what one does not want to do is a sad business. That is why Puritanism
is associated with gloom. On the terrace of the Villa Étoile no man
could want to look at a newspaper or a watch. Across the Gulf of La
Napoule lies Cannes. Beyond Cannes is the Cap d'Antibes. Mountains,
covered with snow and coming down to the sea in successive chains, form
the eastern horizon. Inland, Grasse is nestled close under them.
Seaward, the Iles de Lérins seem to float upon the water. For on
Sainte-Marguerite the line of demarcation between Mediterranean blue
and forest green is sharp, and Saint-Honorat, dominated by the soft
gray of the castle and abbey, is like a reflected cloud. Between
Théoule and Cannes the railway crosses the viaduct of the Siagne.
Through the arches one can see the golf course on which an English
statesman thought out the later phases of British Imperialism. To the
west, the Gulf of La Napoule ends in the pine-covered promontory of the
Esquillon. Except for a very small beach in front of the Théoule
hotel, the coast is rocky. From February to May our terrace outlook
competed successfully with duties elsewhere.

Young and old in Théoule have to make a daily effort to enjoy
educational and religious privileges. We wondered at first why the
school and church were placed on the promontory, a good mile and a half
from the town. But later we came to realize that this was a salutary
measure. The climate is insidious. A daily antidote against laziness
is needed. I was glad that I volunteered to take the children to
school at eight and two, and go after them at eleven and four, and that
they held me to it. In order to reach a passable route on the steep
wall of rock and pine, the road built by the Touring-Club de France
makes a bend of two kilometers in the valley behind Théoule. By taking
a footpath from the hotel, the pedestrian eliminates the bend in five
minutes. In spite of curves, the road is continuously steep and keeps
a heavy grade until it reaches the Pointe de l'Esquillon.

I never tired of the four times a day. Between the Villa Étoile and
the town was the castle, built on the water's edge. After Louis XIV it
became a soap factory, and was restored to its ancient dignity only
recently. I ought not to say "dignity," for the restorer was a baron
of industry, and his improvements are distressing. The entrance to the
park created on the inner side of the road opposite the château is the
result of landscape dentistry. The creator did not find that the
natural rock lent itself to his fancies, and filled in the hollows with
stones of volcanic origin. On the side of the hill, fountains and
pools and a truly massive flight of steps have been made. Scrawny firs
are trying to grow where they ought not to. Quasi-natural urns
overflow with captive flowers, geraniums and nasturtiums predominating.
Ferns hang as gracefully as shirtings displayed in a department store
window. Stone lions defy, and terra cotta stags run away from,
porcelain dogs. There are bowers and benches of imitation petrified


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